This trifle will be a show-stopper on your holiday table!!! It looks gorgeous in a trifle dish, but a glass bowl will suffice! Layers of custard and jelly studded with cake and heaped high with cream and fruit.
While the cake and custard may be purchased ready-made, I strongly advise creating the jelly yourself. It’s such an essential part of trifle that it makes all the difference – and it’s so simple!
Christmas Trifle And Its Making
I used raspberry-flavored Aeroplane jelly and store-bought custard the first time I made trifle. I was giddy with pride because it looked so good. I was so taken aback by the trifle’s beauty that I entirely forgot the first rule of cooking: it doesn’t matter how gorgeous it appears or how lovely the images are if it doesn’t taste well.
I scrunched my nose in disgust after taking one colossal bite. The jelly flavor was so fake that it was off-putting since it was such a striking contrast to the other flavors in the trifle.
Now, before you start thinking I’m a culinary snob, let me explain that I don’t mind Aeroplane jelly on its own; it has a nostalgic quality to it. If you’re short on time, I strongly advise you to use store-bought custard (but handmade is so much better!).
- 1 x 450g / 14 ounce Madeira cake or store-bought Pound cake (Note 1)
- 1/3 cup Cointreau or other fruit-flavored liquor, or apple, orange, or other fruit juice (or 2 tbsp brandy)
- gelatin powder (about 7 tsp) (Note 2)
- 6 cups original cranberry juice (i.e. WITH sugar added, not No Added Sugar, Note 2)
- 2–3 punnets halved strawberries
- One punnet each of blueberries and raspberries
- 2 1/2 cups thickened heavy cream (or pure whipping cream)
- Three tablespoons white sugar (caster sugar ok)
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Homemade Thick Custard (Or 900G 1 Tub Pauls Double-Thick Vanilla Custard, Note 3):
- 3 quarts of milk (whole or low fat)
- caster sugar (1/4 cup) (superfine sugar)
- One teaspoon (or extract) vanilla bean paste (Note 4)
- additional 1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- a quarter-dozen egg yolks
- 1/2 cup cornstarch/corn flour
- Should the cake be cut into 3 cm / 1.2? Cubes. Cover the bottom of a 3.5 L / 3.5 qt trifle dish with cake (you may not use all of it), and then pour in the booze or juice.
- Scatter 1/2 to 1 punnet halved strawberries on top as an optional garnish (this is not in the ingredients list).
- Heat half of the cranberry juice (3 cups / 750ml) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low simmer, then remove from heat.
- In a separate dish, pour the remaining room temperature cranberry juice. Spread gelatine evenly throughout the surface (don’t drop it in one spot). Using a whisk, combine the ingredients until they are mostly dissolved.
- Pour in the cranberry juice that has been heated. Whisk until all of the gelatin has dissolved. Continue with the recipe; the jelly will be heated.
Jelly Layer 1:
- Pour HALF of the cranberry jelly liquid over the cake in the trifle dish with caution. Refrigerate for 1.5 hours, uncovered, until it is partially set — still soft but not watery (i.e. if you gently place a strawberry on it, it will stay on the surface).
- Place the leftover jelly in a dish on the counter (do not refrigerate).
- Make the custard in the meanwhile (see below).
Layer Of Custard:
- Remove the trifle from the refrigerator. Smooth the surface of the custard and press it against the glass to seal it (stops jelly bleed).
- Refrigerate for 1 hour or until the top has firmed up enough to contain the jelly (the jelly is soft, so the custard doesn’t need to be set entirely).
- Place the remaining jelly in the fridge simultaneously (to thicken somewhat but not too much, as shown in the video, for a tidy, transparent layer of jelly – see Note 5).
- Check the jelly at 30 minutes to make sure it doesn’t set too fast.
Jelly Layer 2:
- Remove the trifle and jelly from the refrigerator. Jelly is supposed to be messy. Smooth the surface of the jelly with a spoon.
- One punnet halved strawberries, sprinkled on top (or half each raspberry and strawberries). Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (can leave in the fridge for 48 hours, until ready to assemble).
- Cream: Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
- Top with cream and the remaining berries just before serving, once the jelly has set. Using icing sugar, dust the cake.
- Serve!! PS Make sure each serving has a little bit of each layer in the trifle.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, 14 cups of sugar, and vanilla to a boil. Boiling is not recommended.
- Whisk the remaining 14 cups of sugar and the yolks in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the corn flour until smooth.
- Carefully pour in about 12 cups of the milk mixture while whisking. Once that’s done, slowly pour in the rest of the milk while stirring. Pour back into the pot after everything is smooth and blended.
- Return the pot to a low heat setting on the stove. Whisk frequently till it thickens and custards – this will take around 45 seconds (i.e. it is liquidly when you start, then suddenly it thickens).
- Remove from heat as soon as thickened; it will continue to reduce.
- Fill a bowl halfway with the mixture and cover with cling film, pressing firmly against the surface. Allow cooling on the counter until ready to layer with custard. This recipe yields 750ml.
- CAKE: You may use any cake for this. Pound and Madeira are also excellent choices and are widely accessible in stores. Homemade Vanilla Cake is also a good option. The Christmas Cake is likewise delicious. However, it has a dark brown color.
- JELLY: This recipe used to call for flavorless Aeroplane jelly (original recipe here), but that is no longer available (as of 2020). The video will be updated. The primary gelatin option was always included in the notes as an alternative, and it has now become the base recipe.
- Gelatin powder – I use McKenzie’s gelatin powder, which can be found in the baking aisle; 3 x 7g sachets Knox plain gelatin, US; 2 x 12g sachets Dr Oetker plain gelatin, UK (close enough to 21g)
- Cranberry juice – You MUST use sugared cranberry juice, such as Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Classic brand in Australia. Otherwise, your jelly will be tasteless (Cranberries are sour). In the aisles, you can buy cranberry juice.
- Have you been served the incorrect juice? Don’t be concerned! To make it sweet, incorporate 1/2 cup white sugar into the cranberry juice that has been cooked on the stove.
- There will be no fake jelly! Many trifle recipes call for Aeroplane jelly in raspberry and strawberry flavors. They’re too contrived for me, mainly because there’s so much jelly in this meal! I honestly believe it’s worth the modest effort to make a jelly with real Cranberry Juice; the flavor difference is incredible, and it’s true.
- STORE BOUGHT CUSTARD: I would choose store-bought custard over flavored Aeroplane Jelly to save time. To make it more interesting, add a dash of vanilla extract. Ensure that the custard is DOUBLE THICK (Pauls is good, Woolies, Coles etc., in fridge section).
- VANILLA BEAN PASTE contains tiny black particles, much like an authentic vanilla bean. It’s not required; you may use vanilla!
- Neat jelly layers – the first layer of jelly is poured over while it is still flowing, and it will be flat and transparent. The custard’s second layer of jelly must be spooned on. Liquid jelly cannot be poured over custard because it breaches the surface of the custard, no matter how delicately you run it, and the liquid jelly seeps into the custard, causing messy bleeding.
If you wait for the second layer of jelly to solidify before gently spooning it on, you’ll end up with unsightly broken bits of jelly in the layer instead of it being transparent.
Solution? Allow the jelly to set only partially, so it is still sloppy but thick enough to spoon on. It’s hard enough to make a clean layer over the custard (no bleeding), and it’s crystal clear once fully set (rather than broken and bubbly).